1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” – Acts 1:1-5 ESV
It is widely accepted that this book was written by the same individual who wrote the gospel of Luke. It is believed that Luke was a Gentile, possibly a Greek, who had come to know and become the friend, traveling companion and personal physician of the apostle Paul. We know Luke was a physician from Paul’s brief description of him from his letter to the Colossians. “ Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas” (Colossians 4:14 ESV). Luke is also the author of the longest of the four gospels, the one that bears his name. In his prologue to that gospel, Luke opens up with an explanation as to why he had chosen to write it.
1 Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught. – Luke 1:1-4 NLT
Luke was well-acquainted with the ministry of Jesus and must have been an early follower of this rabbi from Nazareth. While his name in only mentioned three times in the New Testament, Luke would play a significant, Spirit-inspired role in the creation of the New Testament Scriptures by writing more than any other New Testament writer, including Paul. It seems from the two books he penned, that Luke was not only a physician, but an amateur historian. As we can see in his prologue to the gospel of Luke, he “carefully investigated” and then chose “to write an accurate account”. With his penchant for detail, he was used by the Holy Spirit to chronicle the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus, but then follow that up with the birth and spread of the church. The two books he wrote, Luke and Acts, are considered companion books and provide us with an ongoing narrative that includes Jesus’ departure, the Holy Spirit’s arrival, and the gospel’s meteoric spread throughout the known world of that day. Traditionally called “The Acts of the Apostles”, it is better seen as the continuation of the acts of Jesus, carried on by His followers in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had told His disciples, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father” (John 14:12 NLT), and we see that promise being fulfilled throughout the pages of the book of Acts.
Luke even opens this book with the words: “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up” (Acts 1:1-12 NLT). Clearly referencing his gospel, Luke says that he wrote it in order to provide an accurate history of all that Jesus began to do and teach. In other words, in Luke’s mind, Jesus had not stopped His ministry just because He had ascended back up into heaven. He was still actively at work in the world, but He was ministering through those He had left behind and to whom He had given His Spirit. Luke mentions that Jesus “had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen” (Acts 1:2 ESV). The last thing Jesus had told His disciples before He ascended into heaven was “now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven” (Luke 24:49 NLT). Luke is unapologetic in his belief that Jesus rose from the dead and repeatedly appeared to His followers over the span of 40 days.
He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. – Acts 1:3 ESV
And Luke reiterated what he had recorded in his gospel, that Jesus had commanded His disciples to remain in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came.
4 …he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” – Acts 1:4-5 ESV
In the following verses, which we will look at in detail tomorrow, Luke will provide additional insight into that final conversation Jesus had with His disciples before His return to His Father’s side. Luke references the words of John the Baptist, who had been the herald of Jesus’ coming. It was he who had said: “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11 NLT). And Luke is preparing to tell his friend, Theolphilus, and us, just what John was talking about. This obscure reference by John to the baptism of the Holy Spirit would have meant little or nothing to the disciples. And even though Jesus had told them that the Holy Spirit was coming, they had no way of knowing the significance of that promise. They had no real experience with or understanding of the Holy Spirit’s role. But they were about to find out, in a big way. Jesus had promised to send them the Holy Spirit, and He had made it clear that the Holy Spirit’s arrival would be critical to the success of their future mission.
26 “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. 27 And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry.” – John 15;26-27 NLT
It is important to keep in mind that the disciples had all been witness to Jesus’ gruesome death on the cross. They had seen Him die and then buried in a tomb. There had been a finality to His last days on earth. His mission had ended in defeat. He was dead and they were at a loss as to what was going to happen next. Then He had suddenly reappeared to them. He talked with them and ate with them. And in that 40-day period He had reiterated His promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Then, when He had left them for the last time, He had given them instructions to return to Jerusalem and wait. And Luke records the dramatic change that had come over them as a result of having seen Jesus alive.
52 So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. 53 And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God. – Luke 24:52;53 NLT
What happens next would change these people forever. They would never be the same and neither would the world be. What Luke is about to describe is the single-most important event to happen in the history of mankind, short of the coming of Jesus as recorded in his gospel. And Luke wants us to know that this is not fantasy or the byproduct of man’s vivid imagination. What we will be reading on the pages of Luke’s account are actual events, an historical record of what really happened. And the world is a radically different place because of these events. What Jesus had promised would happen, did happen. The Holy Spirit came. The promise was fulfilled. And the gospel has spread throughout the world, changing lives with the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.